- "The Future" by Leonard Cohen (apparently not referring to poetry's "market")
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #45|
The Internet in general and the social media in particular have given us an answer that predates currency itself: audience. Our challenge isn't to sell poetry but to give it away. Sounds easy, but it isn't. Post your favorite poem on Facebook and see how few people "Like"--let alone "Share"--it. See how few poems have gone viral, as Jonathan Reed's reverser has:
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #30|
Think about that for a moment.
Poetry began with raconteurs telling stories in front of their tribespeople, whose eyes followed the performers or some indicated object or cave painting. Emerging from a dark age when verse relied on text and the dreaded poetry reading, we come full circle with video. Just as .MP3 files on IPods revolutionized the music industry, obsoleting albums, CDs and DVDs, .MP4 (along with .avi .rm, .flv and other [multimedia container] formats) files allow poetry to operate on a global scale with the same audiovisual appeal that it had at its height. As an example¹, consider Shakespearean actors or imagine a non-slam version of Steve Currie's "Worst Date" with more natural language and pace:
As daylight died on the primordials, visual contact was lost whenever the speaker stepped away from the fire. Voices became disembodied, emerging from the darkness. This would have been the precursor of the sound file.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #69|
Obviously, audiovisual is poetry's primary medium in both heirarchy and chronology. By watching his plays being performed, seeing the actors point to their heads while saying "coxcomb", a student of Shakespeare will find it much easier to understand the language. Studying the text can come later.
The audio or visual are secondary media. The former might involve MP3 sound files; the latter, sign language (minus alphabetics). A deaf person might be impressed by a soundless video of someone's expressions as they sign a brilliant poem; might the text be worth examining?
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #84|
So, the future of poetry is in performances, right? Slam, minus the histrionics?
Not so fast! Remember us mentioning "some indicated object or cave painting" above?
Most successful poems will be hybrids, blending secondary (i.e. spoken) and tertiary (i.e. text) modes with graphics and, perhaps, music. These include the montage/dramatization (with voiceover and/or text), slide show/collage (with voiceover and/or text) and photomeme.
Montage with voiceover and music:
Slide Show video with voiceover and text:
Un Drapeau Pour Trudeau (in English) posted by Earl Gray on Vimeo.
Slide Show video with text:
The Evolution of Buffalo Wings posted by Earl Gray on Vimeo.
Slide Show photos with text (aka a "Facebook poem"):
|Click here to see "Lovers Will".|
Okay, so we know the modes and media in which successful poems will come. What will those verses be about, though?
Next: The Future Passed
¹ - Notice that all of the examples in this post require your imagination; they need more interesting writing or material, modernization of language and/or better acting or production before they could work for a contemporary audience. Hey, if we had better examples to show you this post would be entitled "The Present", not "The Future".
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Earl Gray, Esquirrel